Groups claim Clark's support

Opponents of two multimillion-dollar developments in Fiordland have received the backing of former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark.

Ms Clark, now the United Nations development programme administrator, met representatives of the Save Fiordland group from Te Anau and Glenorchy's Stop the Tunnel group in Dunedin during her recent South Island visit.

The groups are opposing private developers seeking concessions from the Conservation Department to drive a road tunnel between Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks, and a monorail from Queenstown to Te Anau Downs across Snowdon Forest Park.

Save Fiordland chairwoman Daphne Taylor said Ms Clark expressed concern about the threat to the outstanding natural values of the regions that would be affected and which have World Heritage status, and asked the groups to keep her informed of further developments.

Having Ms Clark's support was a wonderful coup for the groups, Mrs Taylor said.

"As a UN member she will be able to help liaise with Unesco and as a former prime minister and conservation minister she knows the processes involved with the concession applications," she said. "She is also a Kiwi who uses the conservation estate for recreation."

Mrs Taylor said Ms Clark had promised a statement of support for the campaign opposing the projects should DOC grant a concession to either of the proposals.

In a statement issued by Save Fiordland, Ms Clark said she did not want to see the Routeburn and Hollyford tracks coming out at a tunnel portal.

Southland District Mayor Frana Cardno, who was unable to attend the meeting, said she had spent many hours trying to keep up with Ms Clark on the Fiordland tracks and it wasn't surprising she voiced her opposition to the developments.

"She always lived what she talked and her passion for the environment is well known," Ms Cardno said.

When asked if the developments would have been considered if Ms Clark had still been prime minister or conservation minister, Mrs Cardno referred to Ms Clark's time in Government.

"These proposals were around when she was prime minister and they never got this far," she said.

Ms Cardno said the forthright support and desire to be kept informed was great for the groups opposing the tunnel and monorail.

DOC spokesman Rory Newsam said last week a decision to grant concession for the developments was still some way off.

The Southland Times